Property Management & Me

Ep13: Mastering industry award submissions — with Amanda Gould

November 20, 2023 PropertyMe Season 1 Episode 13
Property Management & Me
Ep13: Mastering industry award submissions — with Amanda Gould
Show Notes Transcript

"Every year I sit down and think, okay, what do I need to work on this year? And every year there's something that's highlighted within the business that we need to work on. It might be growth within the business, it might be conflict resolution, it might be client liaison, it might be customer journey, whatever it happens to be, work out what you're going to focus on during the year and what's going to be supporting you in that journey. And that's what I do every year."
— Amanda Gould

This episode features  tips from Amanda Gould, Director of High Spec Properties Buyers Agents and Joint Deputy President of the REI New South Wales Board of Directors, and Kate Sunol from PropertyMe on how to prepare in advance and master industry award submissions

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Kate:  Hi and welcome to Property Management and Me, a series from Property Me bringing quick tips and insights to support your everyday practice. I'm your host Kate Sunol and today I'm joined by Amanda Gould. Amanda is Director of High Spec Properties Buyers Agents and she's Joint Deputy President of the RAI New South Wales Board of Directors.


We're chatting today around industry awards submissions, and I'm really excited to have Amanda join us and share her experience from a few different lenses. It's an outstanding eight awards I believe you've received, including going to the REIA national awards and winning that for two years also. So a lot of experience to speak from.


It's great to have you here. Welcome Amanda.


Amanda: Thanks, Kate. Great to see you. 


Kate: Could you share a bit about your experience around industry awards and some of the things that you've noticed from a submission and a judging perspective? 


Amanda: Well, obviously it's a topic close to my heart, Kate, so I started applying for awards I think my first one was 2016 and I really had, had my head down, bum up, so to speak, um, just working on the business and, you know, growing the business and, and learning, you know, and then in 2017, I got an email and I'd been a member of REI New South Wales since I started.


And it's every year I kept seeing the awards, you know, you should submit for the awards. And, and I thought, Oh no, I don't have enough experience. Oh no, I'm not, you know, I don't think I'll be good enough compared to other people. And back then there wasn't a lot of buyers agents. There was a handful of us.


And I thought, you know, in 2017, I thought, well, I've done a lot. I feel pretty proud of what I've done. Let me just give it a crack. Sorry, 2016. And I did. And I wrote my, write my own, obviously I do get somebody to check them and if they need to be, you know, Tweaked, that, that does happen, but I can go into that a bit more detail.


But 2016, I wrote it all by myself. I actually didn't think I had anybody checking that one. And I was a finalist. I didn't win, but I was a finalist and just to be a finalist amongst the amazing peers at the time, I was very proud of myself and I thought, wow, I can do this. Maybe I'll try again next year.


And then the next year I, I tried in 2017 and I was a finalist and then I won and that was my first award within the industry. So pretty good hit rate, I suppose. Because I won the REI New South Wales Awards for Excellence in Real Estate Buyer's Agent of the Year, very long title, I was in the mix for the National Buyer's Agent Award, which was the next year, so 2018, and I won that.


And that was against obviously all of the states and I was representing the REI New South Wales, which was, you know, a very big honor. And, you know, I was blown away. To win that as I am with any award, just to be recognized for all the hard work that either myself or my team have, have achieved over the year and helping so many clients and just being, just being able to highlight the type of experience and service that we give within the industry, that that is being recognized is, is truly, you know, a gift.


And, and I feel very, you know, appreciative of that and grateful. And then from there, a number of other awards, the REB. Women in Real Estate Awards Buyer's Agent of the Year and R. E. I. New South Wales Buyer's Agent of the Year a number of other times. This year, um, I also won that title, which was amazing.


Uh, and last year we won the title for REI New South Wales Buyer's Agent of the Year and Buyer's Agency of the Year. That was actually the first time I'd actually ever submitted for Buyer's Agency. Again, I don't know why I just, I felt like maybe we would. Doing a huge amount of marketing. And that is one of the big questions is around marketing.


And I thought, how can I really answer this with any data if I don't really do anything and it's all word of mouth. So that was really amazing achievement for myself and my team to be recognized. And then, and then, like I mentioned this year, winning the national buyers agent of the year for the REIA. So that's my experience with the awards, writing them.


Obviously, there's a lot that goes into that. And I know that's what we're going to be discussing today. But I've also been a judge for the REI New South Wales Awards a number of times. And also the REIA, the National Buyers Agent Awards. So, uh, sorry, the National Awards. I don't. I don't judge my own category, obviously, but I do judge other categories and that varies from year to year and who's put their hand up for, for which category.


But I usually like small agency because I am a small agency. So I sort of, I like seeing that for, for real estate agents, but I'm always up for any usually put my hand up for most. And that was a really good experience and just seeing the variance of different submissions and, and I can tell you it's very vast and varied.


Some people don't, I feel like don't even read the actual questions and they write without actually dissecting the question. 


Kate: Yeah, absolutely. I've also had the privilege of judging the RAI New South Wales Awards. I think my favorite ones would be the BDM and the innovation categories. I just love seeing the new ideas that come through the industry. One of the questions I get asked a lot is whether I can help write a submission or help someone find a professional writer to do so. And obviously when I'm a judge, I can't, but one of the things that I respond with is just, do you understand the questions? Can you talk on how you've achieved success here in this category, or even just put it down in bullet points? Because a writer can help you finesse your answers, but they can't write a winning submission for you if you haven't done the work. And if you don't demonstrate that in your practice, particularly when it comes to the finalist interviews, and you just get asked the questions on the spot. 


Amanda: I mean, I've never had a professional writer. I definitely have had people that have helped me, I write it and then they, they maybe make it sound a little bit like better with the English is a little bit better. And, and putting it through Grammarly, very important. Obviously spell check. I know this seems really basic, but you'd be surprised at the amount of people that don't do spell check before submitting.


And then there's, and I, I do mark down for bad spelling. I don't know about other judges, but it, it annoys me because I think that's a really simple fix and Grammarly. That's something else that I would definitely recommend you investing in. I do that and so do the people that that check my work. So I'll write it because obviously, you know best what you've done during the year that can answer it. But maybe, you know, because you've only got like 400 words in a lot of them and depending on which awards you're going for, it's not actually a lot of words to, to get a point across. So I might have. Double that. I might write at 800 and then we have to cut it down.


And that's where a second set of eyes is vital. Now saying that this year I didn't have anybody help me. I did both the submission for buyer's agent and buyer's agency myself. And of course my team members that, that, you know, were my second set of eyes because that's something that I would always recommend.


Don't just, if you are writing it yourself, you can read the same sentence over and over and think it sounds great. Somebody else reads it and then they say, Oh, actually, that's not, that doesn't make sense because you're so in your head about it. So I definitely say a fresh set of eyes is super important, but maybe biggest tip that I could give anybody.


And this was the tip. So when I first wrote my first submission in 2016, I asked an industry leader if, and I know he does judging. He, at the time he wasn't a judge, but I said, what would you recommend? Is there anything you can give me a tip on now? I didn't specifically ask him about questions or reading my submission, I just said, what is the biggest tip? Maybe the top three. And he said, the biggest one I can give you is answer the question. I thought, well, that seems really basic, but It is actually something that you really need to look at. Some questions have three or four questions built into one question. So it might ask you, you know, what the percentage growth is and how that's contributed to your overall turnover, whatever it happens to be.


And it'll, if I break the question down into parts, so I'll say, okay, so it's asking. The percentage increase, that's one part of the question. The second part is how it has contributed to the success of the business. The third question might be something else. So breaking those down and then ticking them off.


When I have answered them, and then if it's not clear, especially when it goes to a second set of eyes, I ask them, have these three questions within the question been answered? And only then do I think, okay, and it's the right amount of, you know, 400 words or whatever it happens to be, then I'm ready to put it in the online portal and, and submit but only after that.


So that's really, really important. And I think something, when you start, when you start applying for awards and you're doing them a lot and you're writing them and you're, you're, you're tweaking them and you, you know, change them year on year, because obviously you've got to change, I keep us a folder, a separate folder with all of the, for example, like professional development is, is the same question every year.


So what professional development have you done? What personal development have you done? So I keep a folder because sometimes I'll do a day course and I'll forget about that by the time the submission is ready. So then I'll say, Oh, great. Let me just have a one sentence just on what that, what, what the course was and what I got out of the course and how it impacted the business.


So even though that may not be the full question, that's why you're asking the question. How has it impacted you, all this learning? How has it impacted you and your business? Growth, turnover, staff growth, whatever it happens to be. 


Kate: One of those things you mentioned there I think gets overlooked a lot. It's not always about the numbers and the stats. It's not necessarily the person who's done the biggest stats or, you know, cleared the most amount of sales. One of the questions that I love to ask when you get to the finalist stage and you actually have a face-to-face interview is, How did that affect the result? What did you go through? Did you try anything before this approach? Did you take other measures that didn't work? Because then you can see, you know, the wisdom behind the steps and how the thinking and the practice and has evolved and gone from a professional development perspective. It's not just, I was given this checklist and I followed it and I managed to get good results, but you can see that person developing as an individual as well.


Amanda: Absolutely. And I think it's really important. Well, certainly for me, I'm not sure about other people's businesses, but every year I sit down and think, okay, what do I need to work on this year? And every year there's something that's highlighted within the business that we need to work on. It might be growth within the business.


It might be, you know, it might be conflict resolution. It might be, you know, Client liaison, it might be customer journey, whatever it happens to be, work out what you're going to work on during the year and work what, work out what courses are going to be supporting you in that journey. And that's what I do every year.


And that's why every year I can answer those questions differently. There will be some consistent. you know, like one to ones with the team and training and stuff with the team. But other, other than that, there are every year we look at different courses that we can do that will support us on our, on our journey of being a better buyers agent basically.


Kate: Are there any other things that you would be looking for to sort of demonstrate excellence in a category? Is it having references? Is it any sort of supporting additional documents or evidence that you can attach?


Amanda: I think there should always be statistics to back up what your statement is. I can't tell you how many of these, um, awards submissions I have read and it says our business has grown by 20%, but no backup, like how? How did you do that? Was it a marking it? Was it marketing? What are the stats on the marketing? And when I'm judging, I break questions up and I'll say, I'll give one point for each question or two points for each question. However many we have to do overall to work out how many, it's usually out about, I think it's about 20 points all up.


And then I work out, because sometimes you'll have people that are neck and neck. And they only win by half a point because they've answered that more specifically than others. So if it's grown by, you know, 20%, how many clients is 20%? How many, you know, how many properties extra were sold? How, and what were those, what were those prices?


Was it all in one price point? Was it higher price point? Like, are you going into a new area or is it a marketing campaign that's helped with that? Is it word of mouth? Anything that's going to be able to back up your statement, you can't just make a random statement without having it backed up, I think, because it's not valid to me.


It's anybody can say anything, but unless you've got some stats to back it up and, and reports, like if there's an opportunity, a lot of the award submission will give you an opportunity to include data, get into your CRM, print out some spreadsheets, print out some, you know, wheel, you know, You know, pie charts, that sort of thing, because that will help, and a lot of people are visual, especially judges, you know, it's easier to read a pie chart than it is a spreadsheet. So let's just have as much information there backing that up as possible. And that's what we do, you know, in all of our submissions. If we're going to say something, we always try to include some sort of data or some sort of, you know, pie chart or something to back that up.


Kate: So we've just come to... The finalist rounds of award winners this year. And, um, I think now is the time where a lot of listeners might be inspired by that or thinking I could enter that next year. So that's exactly why we're recording this now at the end of the year. Do you have any advice for those people thinking ahead to next year's submissions?


I think that as I was saying before, really just working out what you need to work on and what your focus is going to be for the year. That is a really big thing. So you might say, okay, it's conflict resolution, whether that's within a team, whether that's with clients, whether that's with other agents. As a buyers agent, we're dealing with agents every day in all different areas with all different personalities and egos.


And it's how to, you know, To really work well with all types of people. So it might be something like that, but work that out at the beginning of the year. So you can focus on getting all of those training, training points completed during the year. So when it comes to submission, you've actually got some really good data to back that up.


So I think it's somebody that wants to grow personally and professionally is somebody that's going to stand out. Customer service, like customer service is at the heart of everything we do. We think about the customer journey. We think about the flow. We think about bottlenecks. How on earth, you know, how on earth we could make it better every single year.


And, you know, we might have found that feedback from clients has been, you know, something around one point of the service. Could we tweak that a little bit better? So they feel like they were kept in the loop the whole time, and that might mean that it's another piece of software that you can discuss, or maybe it's, you know, somebody from the team touching base with them after they've exchanged contracts, because as a buyers agent between exchange of contracts and settlement, there's not a lot we do.


We've done our job. And then we come in at the pre-settlement the day before. So there's a quite a number of weeks where the normally the client wouldn't be in contact regularly like they have been. So just working different ways in which you can be better. And I think having those stats to back up whatever you're discussing and you're highlighting is really important.


And I think that is how you can stand out as a nominee. And it doesn't matter the size of your business. Like you were saying before, Kate, it matters about. What the type of service, and I suppose that's why I really like the REI awards is because it's the awards for excellence in real estate. It's not who's the, who has the biggest, you know, turnover in the industry and, and I'm certainly not the biggest buyer's agent out there and, and nor am I wanting to be.


It's all about customer service here at High Spec and I'd rather be small and focus on that rather than grow too big and lose sight of where we were. So I think that's really great that a small business can shine just as much as somebody that turns over 20 million. 


Kate: I completely agree. I had a finalist this year who really inspired me personally. They were asked during the interview, what their motivation was for applying to the awards and had shared that they were a small agency, but they had achieved huge amounts of growth. And scale for the agency and really wanted to show their team that you don't have to be a mega office or a huge team to demonstrate really great work.


I think that's so important to remember. Like you said, it's not just about the numbers. It's about the growth, the improvement of the numbers, how you've transformed your agency or developed your team or new service or offering that you're giving your customers. And you can see that with the nominees who like yourself resubmit the following year, they really demonstrate that consistent growth trajectory. And you can see when excellence is. A part of how they work, not just ticking their box by applying for an award at the end of the year. 


Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. 


Kate: Thanks so much, Amanda, for joining us here today. If anyone has any questions about the awards and how to get their submissions right, or wants to chat with you around your buyer's agency work, how can they reach out? 


Amanda: They can reach out at amanda@highspecproperties.com.au or on Instagram, @highspec.properties. 


Kate: Wonderful. Thanks again for joining us.


Amanda: Great. Thanks, Kate.